Full houses are rare at the University of Auckland's Music Theatre but Wednesday's concert was special, celebrating composer Jack Body's 70th year.

Eve de Castro-Robinson had organised it brilliantly, with Body's life-enhancing music complemented by colleagues' tributes. A Gillian Whitehead waiata was thrillingly sung by Mere Boynton, with enough colours and characters in the voice to cast an opera.

Helen Bowater recalled student days, and her Lautari was dashed off with Romany flair by violinist Miranda Adams.

Lyell Cresswell's urbane racontage was a performance in itself, loosely hung around some of his equally witty cartoons, while Phil Dadson created the ultimate alt.tribute, drawing a sonic encyclopedia from an exotic instrument of his own making. Blas Gonzalez and Ya-Ting Liou shared a Steinway for Body's Three Rhythmics, moving from minimalist sheen to shimmering shimmy.


Stephen De Pledge deftly laid out The Street Where I Live against a recording of Body musing on domestic contentment in Te Aro. Ssteve revealed the composer's humour. An edgy electroacoustic work, this manipulated a stuttering voice alongside the sounds of Chinese instruments.

Sometimes there was the immediacy of a stand-up comic routine; elsewhere the music could startle with flagrant beauty. There was also humour when flautist Adrianna Lis and pianist Sarah Watkins sang and played Body's bubbly Children's Games with such gusto, one would not have been surprised to see dancing added to their accomplishments.

The robustly voiced Callum Blackmore and Timothy Carpenter offered a short and sweet interlude, revelling in the clustered dissonances in a short lullaby. This proved the perfect introduction to the runaway eruption of energy that NZTrio released from Fire in the Belly.

Body may talk of seductive nostalgia and sentimentality in his Songs My Grandmother Taught Me but the delicate astringencies in John Elmsly's piano part kept the sugar at bay.

Halfway through the set, Body sprung up and asked us to sing along with soprano Jennifer Maybee. Our gently hummed tune, floating over the mysterious harmonies of All Through the Night, caught the respect and love this man has earned for himself over more than five decades.